5

It has been stated elsewhere (link to an example) that work emails used in the course of regular business are admissible as evidence in UK and EU courts.

I have a large number of emails that are the only remaining evidence for important work that I have delivered.

In my case the workplace is a university, and I will soon lose access to the email trail that has been built up over many years. The only evidence I have for delivery of this work is in the form of emails which show acknowledgements by all parties, and importantly attached documents such as reports.

None of these emails were sent using digital signatures. At the moment, I am able to prove their authenticity as they are stored on the university server, which can be confirmed by IT staff on request, but when I lose access to the server this will no longer be possible.

I understand that a solution that absolutely guarantees the authenticity of these emails may be impossible, but saving them as text files results in virtually no technical barrier to editing and therefore little authenticity. There must be a middle ground - remember that traditional hard-copy documents can be relatively easily forged and yet are regularly used as valid evidence in court. I am looking for the most authentic or convincing solution possible, something that could be viewed as at least equivalent to producing hard copies.

The questions I have are: -

  1. Is there a way to save a local copy of some or all of my email traffic, preferably retaining the headers, and could this be done in some authenticated or industry-standard archive format?

  2. Is there a way to demonstrate that forwarded or saved emails have not been tampered with if my workplace email account has been permanently deleted and the recipients have deleted their copies?

  3. Is there a way to migrate all of my emails onto a different service/server such as gmail or hotmail? - if so, could it be shown that emails have not been tampered with? Could this be done using some form of digital signature?

  4. How would any of these solutions apply to attached files? - how do you know an attached file in a forwarded email is identical to the original?

4
  • I print the email to a .PDF then digitally sign the document with a certificate. The simplest solution is have the school issue the certificate to you, this way your signature is then trusted, at the same level as the school's signature. Outside of that talk the school about how they want to archive the work. – Ramhound Oct 16 '15 at 15:29
  • Good idea to use the employer as independant party. – Hennes Oct 16 '15 at 15:30
  • Will the university keep your inbox for some time; are they on your side? Can you get an official read-only backup of what the server sees as your inbox? Otherwise, or additionally, I'd consider having the e-mails pulled by another service (collect from your university account), as pushing them is potentially subject to manipulation. HTH and good luck. – Run CMD Oct 16 '15 at 15:31
  • After you store the emails on the computer as @Hennes says in his answer, don't forget to add a time stamp to prove that the file has not been tampered with after a certain date using a service like digistamp.com or truetimestamp.org – Tarek Aug 20 '17 at 11:40
2

Is there a way to save a local copy of some or all of my email traffic, preferably retaining the headers, and could this be done in some authenticated or industry-standard archive format?

Yes, simply configure your mailclient to stored them locally. (E.g. in a pst file if you use outlook, or local folders in Thurderbird, ...). Do not forget to copy that to a pen drive and take it home.

(Assuming that you are allowed to take those files home!)

Is there a way to demonstrate that forwarded or saved emails have not been tampered with if my workplace email account has been permanently deleted and the recipients have deleted their copies?

No. Neither can you demonstrate that at this time. You might every well have edited the files in your inbox. No hard proof here.

Best you can do is to get an idependant third party to look at the emails as thay are now, and have them store a copy of those files somewhere solely under their control. That way you can show that you did not tamped with them after the copy was made. This is a service provided by some firms.

Is there a way to migrate all of my emails onto a different service/server such as gmail or hotmail? - if so, could it be shown that emails have not been tampered with?

You can forward all your emails. That will add one more hop to the headers.

Could this be done using some form of digital signature?

Not that I am aware off. Nor would it add anything at this point since you could still tamper with them and then generate the signature.

How would any of these solutions apply to attached files? - how do you know an attached file in a forwarded email is identical to the original?

An attached file is simply part of the mail. All tamper abilities for the mail also include the ability to tamper with attachments.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.